Fire and Rain Prayer

So God – I know I do not chat with you enough, and often I fail to listen enough. Often you hear me at your door with some kind of problem but this time my knocking goes beyond my needs.

I have friends like Roland Dezentje, Randy Wayne White, and Patricia Frappier in the wake of water – and across our country, friends like Peter Sherayko, Rob Word, and Cindy Landon seated near searing smoke.

In failing to listen, perhaps these horrific threats are our doing. So I ask for greater consciousness that we take better care of our earth, and each other in these storms and fires.

And I pray for you to listen to us of all faiths and all fashions of prayer, meditation and visualisation – please smother the fires and quell the storms. Please keep faith — in us.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Satsang to Hear Our Hearts Sing

Satsang is a Sanskrit word that means “gathering together for the truth” or, more simply, “being with the truth.” Truth is what is real, what exists. So, all there is, is Truth. Whenever something increases our experience of the Truth, it opens our Heart and quiets our minds.

Conversely, whenever something such as a thought, fear, major change in life schedule, or judgment occurs – it has the potential to limit or narrow our experience of the Truth. The Heart contracts and the mind gets busier.

We are all equally endowed with this capacity to discriminate the Truth; as well as to quiet the mind. I think of Will Rogers who often wrote from movie locations, rodeos, and upon trains – never missing a deadline with over 4,000 newspaper columns; My beloved mentor Og Mandino who wrote the majority of his worldwide best-selling novels after hours following long days in sales; And my spiritual teacher George Addair was taught to meditate in a soup kitchen with pots clanging around him.

The need for silence, the need to hear God and the Universe, and the simple need to hear myself think is a “special need” for me. This in simple words is why I began meditating in late high school, and then properly studying meditation techniques almost three decades ago. For me, meditation also enhances my prayers.

The Satsang program I am attending in Arizona is produced by Omega Vector. It consists of 4 days of total silence by the students; no clocks, internet, TV, radio, computers, texts, or phones: combined meditations and silent readings and journaling; and general reflections. The past programs have proven some of the most important and energizing studies in which I have ever been involved in my life thus far.

May your lives always allow for Satsang.

What Does ‘Special Needs’ Mean?

I am still processing one of those magical moments in my life, today from in a Wendy’s. I decided to share the incident with my daughter – it is at her encouragement that I’ll attempt to share the story with you.

Picking up my tray of food, I saw that the room was somewhat divided. To one end were folks, just folks having their meals. Mixture of parents, salesmen, little kids. Just folks. And over by the window were about fifteen youth with their counselors. Also, just folks. As I began to select a seat unconsciously with the first group, consciousness stepped in as I grasped a reoccurring thought that led to opportunity – and I went over to the second group by the window. Spying a table in the center, I asked ‘no one in general’ if I could sit there.

Several giggled and in distorted voices, nodded that it was okay. All noticed the stranger in their midst. A toothy smile emerged on one boy as he turned to a counselor, and in broken yet excited words with a failed attempt to whisper exclaimed, “He wants to sit with us.”

Smiles were traded, some nervous laughs, and each along with the counselors glanced in my direction more than once. At one point, a young man they called Nathan stood to take his wrappers to the trash. Counselors guided him as he wandered unsuccessfully when I, perhaps broke the norm, and suggested, “Nathan, look for the big round holes.” As he succeeded throwing away his debris I added, “Way to go, slam dunk,” as some others clapped, “Basketball!”

Headed back to his table he paused and looked at me with the innocence of a new-born. “Are you handicapped?” The counselor went to interrupt.

“Like how?” I smiled, with a nod to the counselor that all was fine.

He made a sweeping though erratic wave with his lanky arm. “Like us, we’re in a special school for special needs.” He began to point to some classmates as they smiled and waved freely.

“Do you mean – do I have special needs? Sure I do. Everyone does,” I replied.

This is where one might say, the silence was deafening.

I confess that I have had instances where some idle conversation or one of my stories may attract an audience of sorts, but never as the little group forming near my table. Two unable to physically join, turned their chairs.

Inquisitively if not suspiciously he asked, “Like what special needs do you got?”

I was winging it. “Everyone has special needs – just some folks won’t admit it. That’s sometimes why folks get in fights, because they have special needs and don’t know how to explain them. Any needs are special if they’re your needs. We all have a special need to eat. Most of us need food and water, hamburgers and French fries and maybe a milkshake at times.” They giggled.

“But I have my own special needs, some maybe that others share but some are just my own special needs. I need air conditioning and mine broke so I’m eating in this airconditioned place with you guys. And I don’t know how to repair an air conditioner so I had a special need for a special repairman that knew that stuff. And I need my dog Gibbs, he is really special. I need him for company and at night to lay on my bed so I feel safe and not alone. And being a dog, he has a special need and I have a special need to make sure he has a great vet.”

They asked where Gibbs was, so I said, “That’s a great question. He’s staying with my friends who have an air conditioner that works and a dog that is his buddy. Gibbs needs friends on two and four legs. And that’s a huge special need of mine. I need friends. So does Gibbs.”

I knew I was in a safe place and solid energy so I continued. “I am a writer so I need to write or I feel like something is missing. Sometimes I need to draw or color pictures. Those might not seem special to others but they are special needs for me. I need to exercise every day and pray for my days to go well, those are more of my special needs. And when I visited my daughter in Alaska way far away, they have a season where it never gets dark so my special need was to pull a stocking cap over my eyes so I could sleep.’” Good audience as they got the humor.

“A really special need I have is love. Gibbs and my friends give me love and I sure hope I give it back to them. I need to know I fit in with people. Need to know that at least some folks like me which may sound weak or silly but I admit that’s a special need to me. I need to know I am doing something useful or helpful. And a really, really special need I have is…. for hugs. I admit it,” I laughed. “There I said it. I need hugs.” Everyone laughed and a couple of the counselors and kids hugged.

Talk then went to questions about my dog, about what I write, about what I like to draw, about my daughter. One girl showed me something she was coloring before I thanked them for letting me share lunch with them. Now….is the part that is tripping up this wordsmith.

I was almost to the door when one of the counselors approached with Nathan, and she paid me one of the best and most humbling compliments that I have ever received in my life. “Do you know that show Highway to Heaven?” she asked. “We watch it at school.”

Those that know me understand why mention of that TV series of the 80’s made me grin. But I was way unprepared for the next couple of moments.

“The kids will be talking about meeting you back at school. You’re like that angel guy ‘Jonathan Smith’ on the TV show,” she said.

Before I could respond, or make my escape, Nathan gave me a huge hug – then gripped my hand to lead me back to hug each and every one of his classmates….and even the poor counselors explaining, “Pierre has special needs, he needs hugs.”

Once back in my car I gave up on controlling the tears in my eyes even though I was laughing. Then I sat in silence giving thanks for many things before calling my daughter. We shared how fortunate I am for the things that occur in my life though she regularly reminds me that I am often the catalyst that allows such things to fall into my lap. I simply observe and then sometimes interact.

But as I chatted with her, I realized how very many times when I find myself in a situation labeled good or bad, or am about to walk past an opportunity to make some teeny tiny difference – I often ask myself, “What would Jonathan do? What would the Angel do? What would Michael do?”

So, as I give thanks – I give thanks to Cindy Landon, to Jennifer Landon, to Sean Landon for sharing their husband and father Michael Landon with me and others.

And with Michael’s words echoing in my ears and hugging my heart, The one thing I need to leave behind is good memories.

“So When Wallace Got to Heaven…”

Some feel life is a journey, not a destination. Others find the journey rocky, yet it still feels good to them. The sojourn to Heaven is more than following a white light as Wallace was soon to see.

Bill “Wallace” Thompson held his arms out to steady himself, noticing his arms felt strong. Skin firm. He flexed his hands, free of age spots. Taking one step then another, standing upright, free of pain. Walking was easy except for the silly mist that gathered at his feet. He saw a homeless man in the distance.

“Hey, Bearded One. Where am I?” he asked.

The man wore a Kermit-green sweatshirt. His smile framed by a shaggy beard. “Hey Wallboy.”

Wallace stood in silence, aware.

“There’s not a word yet, for old friends who’ve just met,” said Jim Henson.

Realization setting in, Wallace replied, “I guess I expected St. Peter.”

“I made a deal with God so I could greet you.”

“You made a deal with God?” Wallace asked with a smirk.

“The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children,” he smiled back. “Would you feel better if I said that St. Peter was really a Muppet? Hope you aren’t disappointed.”

“Good gosh no. I’m just glad I didn’t find myself in another dry heat,” he chuckled.

“Wallace, people need to watch out for each other. Love everyone and forgive everyone, including yourself. Forgive your anger. Forgive your guilt. Forgive your shame. Your sadness. The cheapness of KPHO’s budget for your show.”

Wallace rolled his eyes.

“Embrace and open up your love, your joy, your truth, and most especially your heart. And then…we will walk on.”

Jim placed his narrow arm on Wallace’s shoulder. Wallace was still coming to grips with the change in his body, as if age mattered, he was now as he remembered himself in the ‘60’s. 1960 that is. And he noticed his anger was gone…just like his weight.

“So, are you saying….there is a Heaven? And…I made it?”

“As children, we all live in a world of imagination, of fantasy, and for some of us that world of make-believe continues into adulthood. Much of what you see, will be what your Higher Self wants you to see,” said Jim as he parted some clouds for a lady to step forth.

She was holding some checkered trousers and a gaily striped shirt. In her other hand was a floppy pale hat with a polka dotted headband.

Wallace didn’t know whether to smile or cry. “Donna?”

“You just hush for once,” she replied. “You just apologized and healed anything that mattered with that look upon your face. Now go find a cloud to change behind. I figured you’d feel better in something familiar. You need to be comfy and these old clothes will fit your new body.” And with that, Donna was gone.

“Better do what the lady said,” grinned Jim.

“Might give that a try as I failed at it the first time around,” he shrugged. He fiddled with the soft brim of his hat until it was in perfect Wallace positioning. Then with renewed energy he added, “So what now, Muppet Man?”

It was as if a giant hand reached down into the mist of clouds, and stirred them like finger-paints. The colors began to settle, taking shapes familiar yet lost.

There was a lagoon. And a river ride. And a narrow gauge train.

“Oh my gosh! The Iron Horse! The Lost Dutchman’s Mine Ride. The Sky Ride. It’s like….looking at Legend City!” said Wallace.

“It is Legend City. God couldn’t let it be put asunder after just twenty years. Let’s just say it got lifted and reassembled here.”

“It looks better than ever. How….?”

“Memories keep things we love alive. It may have only been twenty years, but Legend City is held in the heart of so many. Many because of the antics of you and your friends. And….the angels have had thirty years to rebuild it.”

“This is awesome. So….whose the old guy in the miner’s outfit?”

“Oh, that’s Jacob Waltz. The ol’ German was happiest looking for the Superstition Mine so he kinda settled in here. He and Ken Kennedy hang out.”

“Oh my gosh…Gold Dust Charlie. He gave me my start.”

“You can catch up with him later. I’ve more to show you,” as Jim lead the way.

Wallace looked around, sniffing the air. “Lilacs. Much nicer than when the cattle ranch was next door.” He saw the long gone dancing fountains of SRP, colorfully lit as they sent bursts into the sky, a wafting mist over a colorful bridge.

He stopped suddenly for something was amiss. “But….where’s the children?”

Suddenly something tugged at his leg. It was a Norwegian Nut crossed with a Latvian Long Hair Hunting Zag. Their popularity began to diminish toward the middle of the 19th century but there was no mistaking, he was Wallace’s dog.

“ZAGNUT!” screamed Wallace bending to hug him. “Zagnut, I missed you soooo much.” Then he slowly turned to his right, staring at the bridge. He looked up at his guide as other doggies and kitties came up to greet him, checking his scent to see if they knew him, to see if he was the one they were waiting for.

“The Rainbow Bridge. It’s……..real.”

“And this should surprise you why?” laughed Jim as the trio began to cross.

Wallace looked back to the hopeful eyes of the pets waiting to cross with their fur-ever friends.

The grain of the ancient planks were quite visible with each step, this sacred crossing built from the Ancient Teachings. Majestic colors had been applied. Red. Wood from the Sinhalese Bo, the Bodhi Tree where one teacher achieved enlightenment. Orange. Lumber from an apple tree with its grain all coiled when a bitter apple was eaten. Yellow. Methuselah Bristlecone Pine from where Merlin forged his wand and staff.

Green, representing the passage from physical to spirit, from head to heart. Stout rails made from carriers of the Arc of the Covenant. Blue. Gopher wood and Cypress bound together by reeds with the dark pitch still evident after forty days and forty nights at sea. Purple. Swirled grains from limbs of an Olive tree that shaded a once-peaceful garden of reflections in Gethsemane. And finally violet…the highest on the spectrum of color. Pieces of Lebanon Cedar and Aleppo Pine. Deep holes made from spikes where dark stains had sunk deep into the grain. Silent tears fell as Wallace realized the source of these timbers. The River of Legends flowed beneath them.

“It looks so much…clearer than I remember it at Legend City.”

“That’s because that water came from the zoo,” laughed Jim.

Wallace and Zagnut scrunched their faces as they stepped off the colorful bridge. They were greeted by a marching band, bright red uniforms with braided trim of black and gold who took the lead as they played.

“But…where are the kids?”

They passed a yellow bench with a bundle of vibrant baah-loons floating aloft, attached to a sign. Feed the birds. Zagnut sniffed the area as they walked past.

“Soooo,” began Wallace as he rubbed his jaw. “I don’t see Dick Rawls around.”
Jim answered the question, merely raising his eyebrows. Wallace gritted his teeth…then grinned. As they passed the Golden Palace Saloon, familiar lyrics came to his ears.

“Soggy cereal. Soggy cereal. Soggy cereal.
You drop it in the bowl,
The milk goes on,
The telephone rings,
And for a minute you are gone…”

“No way,” breathed Wallace as he watched an elfin face emerge. Striped short sleeved shirt. Baggy vest. Funny cap above dark eyebrows and mournful eyes. No smile….just a smirk as if caught in the act.

“Hi Wallboy.”

Wallace grabbed Mike Condello by his shoulders, his guitar hanging low. The funny thing about grieving is you never know when it’s going to happen.

“Michael! You look great! You look….”

“Great for a guy that did himself in? You can say it. Big mistake. I didn’t know how to ask for help. Took awhile to get here, even. Now God lets me help some of the ones that couldn’t help themselves…like me.”

“Help how?”

“My music,” smiled the musician. “I sing to them in their dreams. Not the Carpenters’ kinda goop. My kinda stuff. Parodies of their lives in hopes they can find humor and go on another day. Just another day…could make all the difference in the world. I’m not the first lamebrain to waste a life and a talent so….He let me rebuild Commodore Condello’s Salt River Navy Band.”

“I have to ask you, and Pat would love this. Was that John Lennon I saw down by the amphitheater?”

Mike nodded. “Lennon pops in. He’s still bewildered at how we reproduced the sounds and music over a weekend which took him and the guys weeks to produce using all their high tech gear.” Pride showed on his face.

Wallace looked in the distance. “So, you’ll be going with Zagnut and me?”

Mike looked at his own feet and shuffled in the mist. “Not quite.”

Jim spoke up. “Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending. Let’s just say, Mike found a way to re-write his ending, and no one knows how that’s going to go.”

Wallace turned back to his guide. “But…where are the kids?”

Mike bowed his head, struggling with eye contact as Wallace did a very rare thing. He hugged the young man tightly, and gave a gentle kiss upon his cheek….and then he too was gone. But not before….

“Ladmo in the skyyyyyy with almonds…..Ladmo in the skyyyyy with almonds….”

And the biggest kid of them all, leaned over to place a rubbery face on Wallace’s shoulder. “Hey, Wallboy. I sure missed you.”

The two grasped hands and jumped up and down in a circle, Ladmo’s top hat toppling all about. Words cannot paint the joy Jim was witnessing. “Ohhhhhh, Laddie…” as Wallace finally released a dam of tears. “Laddie, Laddie. But the kids? Where are the kids?”

“Awww, we keep ‘em busy. I coach the Ladmo Jets. And then I get to direct some of them in plays, musicals. Stuff to help them rewrite their lives if they wish.”

“Plus,” added Jim, “We have 36 years of ‘Wallace & Ladmo’ they been watching.”

“Yep,” grinned Lad. “We’ve only gotten through the first 20 seasons!”

“Yes Laddie. But where are the kids???” Wallace was almost pleading.

“Ohhhhhh. The kids! Well, why didn’t you say so?”

And as the clouds changed shape, Wallace heard the words; the lyrics that had made kids run home and turn on the TV at 4 o’clock for decades. But this was different. This was a children’s choir. A Heavenly Choir of the very most heavenly singing…

“HoHo!HaHa!HeeHee!HaHa!,” the song building until he feared God might holler to turn down the volume! And suddenly, a warbling whistle as the curtain clouds parted and he found himself standing with Jagnut and Ladmo on The Wallace & Ladmo Stage.

“Good gosh, Laddie.” Awe had him almost whispering. “Who are all those people? There’s more kids here than when we played Papago Plaza and that was 10,000 kids.”

“Oh, we got kids and parents and grandparents and even folks that been here before us that been told by fans and angels all about Wallace & Ladmo. And y’know what? They detest Gerald here as much they did down there.”

Wallace paused. “That reminds me. I’m worried about Pat.” He pulled out a bright hankie to wipe his nose. “This is the longest Pat’s been without his Wallboy in Arizona.”
Ladmo put his lanky arm around Wallace, using his own tie to wipe the tears. “Pat’s gonna be just fine. He’ll hurt. Heck…I still hurt. But Pat and Duffy both have as much love down there as we do up here. But enough of that. I been promising these folks a show for the last twenty years.”

“A show?” said Wallace as he tilted his head up somewhat.

“The Wallace & Ladmo Show. I got the girls all ready to hand out Ladmo Bags – and the Twinkies should still be fine!”

“Girls?” grinned Wallace.

“Yep, Donna and Patsy.” Then he whispered, “You can make them run all over the place delivering Ladmo Bags like you did Duffy in the Coliseum.”
And with that, the applause turned to thunder as Ruskettes Flakes showered the stage, transforming to dust and rain as they fell from the heavens upon the dry heat of Phoenix, Arizona. But mainly dust.

Wallace bowed to Ladmo, then turned to the crowd.

“Nice to see you….Glad you tuned in!”

At least….that’s how this writer sees it. Bye now.

The End

Wallace & Ladmo Together Again

Tribute to Wallace
July 25, 2014
Wallace & Ladmo Together Again

Someone dies and I often get asked, “When did you see them last?” Such as since Wednesday when Bill ‘Wallace’ Thompson died. Rather than think of when I saw him last, I’d rather share when I saw Wallace for the first time.

This will necessitate you stepping into the Time Machine as we zip back to 1964. You might think this is about me but hang on for the ride..I’m not one of those kids that grew up in Arizona with “Wallace & Ladmo.” And while I haven’t grown up yet, but I want o share what was going on in the mind of this boy from Illinois at that time.

Only child, no Dad to speak of. Attended Gower Elementary near Chicago since kindergarten. Divorce happens and we move to Scottsdale. Mom had a brother in San Diego and one here, but Unca Kermit Smith had an automotive garage so Mom figured the car would at least run. Funny what shapes a life!

In Hinsdale, we never really had a local kids’ show. We had Kukla, Fran & Ollie and if you knew them then I know where you are from. Basically we had Bozo who I thought was a dork.
My summer vacation was spent arriving in Scottsdale during the hottest summer on record. I knew no one so I was quite the loner. Maybe that’s why I recall thoughts in my head from the end of ’63 into ’64.

Ed Sullivan birthed the British Invasion and a new word was born. Beatlemania. A guy named Barry Goldwater said he wanted to be nominated for President. Mom said Unca Kermit knew him. I could not understand why black people were being found murdered, hung, and their cars burned, any more than I could grasp why the bad guys were getting away with it. I cried when I heard the 16th Street Baptist Church had been bombed. Those little girls never hurt anyone. I hated bullies but admired when a guy named Cassius Clay beat up Sonny Liston and became the champ. That was the extent of my interest in sports.

It was confusing our rotary phone suddenly had push buttons and I was now expected to remember a thing called a zip code. It was very hard when addressing a letter to Robbie, my friend in England who had written me about “a cool new show” called “Dr. Who”. We had stuff like “Jeopardy!,” “Shindig!,” and “Bewitched.”
James Bond movies were my fave. I’d seen From Russia with Love but I’d see Goldfinger at the Round Up Drive-in in Scottsdale. Mary Poppins was one I loved because of Dick Van Dyke. Mom said Unca Kermit fixed his cars. Like I’d believe that! A bitchen new car called the Mustang came out, and that was the extent of my interest in cars.

I thought Nelson Mandella was cool for a “Prepared to Die” speech but I had no idea why they’d throw a good guy in prison. Martin Luther voiced what a real dream was and I saw adults that just didn’t get it. Kennedy was the first President I noticed so he was my President. He was colorblind and understood equality. He hated bullies too. And I was sitting on a stool telling Mom, “Stupid move. Someone is gonna kill that guy,” as Oswald fell.

Students demonstrated against the Vietnam War, more confusing as Mom was a former Marine. A buncha kids burnt their draft cards. I learned Henry Cabot wasn’t the guy that played the butler on “Family Affair.” That was about the extent of my interest in world news.

I share all this so you understand what I was before Wallace came into my life. I was scared. I was alone. I was afraid to admit I was scared. And the world seemed like it was losing all hope and humor. I was lost in a dry heat which was nowhere to this young boy.

Sometimes if I walked to Smith’s Garage, Unca Kermit would let me ride home in the back of his red truck. But some days I got there and all the men were holed up in the end stall and all the doors closed. But I could hear them talking, and cussing, telling jokes. Then one day as I eves dropped, they all began to chant. And what I heard scared the crap outta me so I booked home.

“HoHo!HaHa!HeeHee!HaHa! HoHo!HaHa!HeeHee!HaHa! HoHo!Haa! HeeHee!HaHa! Hoooooo….”

I braved a revisit and eventually stayed long enough to get past the chant. It was actually, a song. And one day I knocked and Unca Kermit said I could come in, “Just as long as you don’t tell Aunt Jean or your Mother.” I felt kinda special.

There was funny guy that reminded me of a cross between Laurel and Dick Van Dyke. And a buncha different dudes that were really one guy. A goofy super hero. A clown that Unca Kermit said, “Could whip Bozo’s butt.” And this rich dweb that was like a pre-pubic Don Rickles – so he was my favorite.

And then this Wallace guy that I could just tell, had so much going on in his head even while making me laugh. And when he talked to the kids….even joshing them, I could just tell that he was really talking to them. Really listening to them. This Wallguy was more than somebody with his hand in a sock; he actually wanted to make me laugh. To make me happy. And it worked. THAT was the first time I saw Wallace.

I still heard sad things like Patsy Cline dying in a plane crash, first time I had heard a star could die that way. Gracie Allen died, the lady that gave me and Mom something to laugh about when going through hard times. Harpo Marx too. A kid died in Disneyland on the Matterhorn ride but that just made me want to go more. And the NASA place planned to crash land a space ship on the moon with a camera and it, making no sense they weren’t going to wait until they knew how to land.

But Wallace and his friends, they all became my friends. They didn’t care I was skinny and wore glasses. Didn’t care I couldn’t catch a ball. They gave me hope even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. They showed me how to perfect being funny. Wallace was my first baby sitter out here. Guess he was my first teacher here too. And he was my Best Friend….even though he was my only friend.

So as we climb out of the Time Machine…fifty years later, I look around. Jonathan Winters and Bill Cosby trained my little wit and got Mom and me through some tough times back east. Out here I expected to find nothing but Injuns and rattlesnakes, but Wallace was waiting. Gerald, Ladmo, and Wallace taught me timing. Taught me that I mattered. Taught me the power of being funny, and that respect went with humor. And thanks to Wallace….I don’t think Mom and me even realized the times were as tough as they were for us. Funny….what shapes a life!

When PBS unveiled “The Pioneers of Kids’ Local TV,” I was honored to be the guests of Duffy and Pat McMahon, with Wallace and Mrs. Thompson to my left. People kept coming up telling the stars, “You know, I never did win a Ladmo Bag.” Well, I didn’t think I deserved to be seated there in the front row and kept trying to head to the back. Suddenly Wallace put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You never made it to any of the friggin’ shows, so sit the hell down and shut up.” Then, he winked at me. He still had it!

So as Wallace, best friend to more kids and adults than imaginable, wings his way to Heaven, I can envision God waiting for him.

“You know, Wallboy….I never did win a Ladmo Bag.”

Bye bye!